Study tips and skills for law students! - Law Training Centre
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Overwhelmed by your law manuals? Study tips and skills for law students!

Good scholars read widely but in a focused fashion. Target you research; it’s the best use of your precious time.
Academic texts exist to support, question or oppose a point of view. You’re not compelled to read them sequentially. Whatever is academically useful to you may appear anywhere in the texts.
  • Use the index if your academic source is a book.
  • Use the abstract and headings if it’s an article in an academic journal in paper or online.
  • Learn the art of scanning text, and then completely focus upon the arguments and evidence you discover.
  • Use the index if your academic source is a book.
  • Use the abstract and headings if it’s an article in an academic journal in paper or online.
  • Learn the art of scanning text, and then completely focus upon the arguments and evidence you discover.
  • Before you do an assignment

    Consider:

  • What are you being asked to do? What are your options and what MUST you do?
  • What will you choose as your primary academic sources and which secondary sources can you carefully select to add depth and thought to your proposition?

  • Divide your reading into two stages
    Preliminary – a short, exploratory phase of reading widely for inspiration.

    A sensible-sized final list – enough content to demonstrate you have thought the issues through and found expert opinion and evidence to reinforce your arguments.

    How to skim read

    Note the structure of the content – headings and summaries.

    Go to the first section you want to read. Examine the opening paragraphs in detail, and then read the first sentences of all subsequent paragraphs.

    Possible reading strategies

    SQ3R (survey, question, read, recite, and review)

    The five steps of SQ3R help you think about what you’re reading when you’re reading it.

  • Survey: seek initial meaning from headings, bolded text and diagrams.
  • Question: jot down questions based upon your initial survey.
  • Read: as you read, seek answers to your questions.
  • Recite: as you find answers, recite or rehearse them so they make sense. Write them down.
  • Review: review the text to see if there are further answers.
  • PQRST (preview, question, read, summary, test)

  • Preview: read the opening, close, headlines and section introductions.
  • Question: what is the point of the content and what are you supposed to learn?
  • Read: connect your ideas with the topics of the content. Highlight relevant points.
  • Summarise: recite and summarise what you’ve learnt. List key concepts and paraphrase them in your own words.
  • Test: review your notes. Do your concepts fit together?
  • KWL

    Another approach to reading is to note

  • What you know?
  • What you want to know?
  • What you’ve learnt from reading?
  • Increasing your reading speed

    If you also want to increase your reading speed, this should be useful.

    Don’t increase the speed with which you move your eyes across the page; but do increase the word span for a single fix of the eye to 4 or 5 words. You can do this without diminishing your understanding of the text.

    Practise by:

  • Vertically dividing a page of text into three. Then ensure your eyes fall only in the centre of each of the three sections.
  • Then practise without drawing lines.
  • Other reading tips

    If you’re finding your own academic sources, check for

  • Provenance: does the content have academic credibility?
  • Objectivity: is its source biased?
  • Timeliness: is the material in date?
  • Presentation: is the material coherent?

  • Finally, stay motivated. It’s completely normal for students to have to read more slowly and read things over again to understand, summarise and develop their own ideas. As your knowledge of law increases so will your reading speed and ability.